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Feminspire | April 21, 2014

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Traveling To Costa Rica And Doing It Right

Traveling To Costa Rica And Doing It Right

I was 22. I had just come out of a bad break-up and was itching to get a passport stamp when a friend mentioned Costa Rica. It’s the perfect first step out of the country for Americans: safe, quick and no visa necessary.

How To Fly

JetBlue, plain and simple. You can research other airlines, but I can bet they won’t be as cheap, especially after you factor in that you get two free carry-ons AND your first checked bag free, not to mention unlimited Dunkin Donuts coffee, tea, soft drinks, and snacks. Oh, and with DirecTv and movies, I really can’t say enough great things about JetBlue (it’s safe to say I’m a TrueBlue Member).

Where to Go

San Jose: the capitol city of this small Central American nation. It’s a great place if you want the immersed vacation. There’s taxis to get you around, but it may be best to rent a car (easy as pie, even if you’re not 25) to get to the nearby areas for sightseeing. I spent about a week in San Jose and about a week in my second destination, Manuel Antonio.

san jose costa rica

Manuel Antonio National Park: gorgeous beaches, immersed wildlife, nightlife, great food and a perfect vacation all in one shot! Everything is very accessible by taking a leisurely walk along the beach.

Manuel Antonio Costa RicaImage courtesy of villascostarica.com

Where not to go: Limon. Why? I was warned there’s potential for malaria, and that was enough for me to not want to go near that provence.

Where to Stay

In San Jose: Best Western Downtown - rates start at $71 a night, with amenities including a bilingual staff (important!), pool and breakfast!

Aranjuez Hotel - with rates starting at $25 a night including an exceptional breakfast buffet and with a website boasting rave reviews, it was hard to turn this one down.

In Manuel Antonio: Best Western Kamuk - where I stayed. With a pool, ocean views, a casino, restaurant, plus buffet breakfast, my stay couldn’t have been better! Rates were only $60 a night, and the staff was so nice! The downside? It requires a bus ride to get to the swimming beaches (but you’re closer to the docks for all the other fun things!)

Hotel Mono Azul - my second option. With a pool and restaurant and rates at $50 a night, right on the hills of Manuel Antonio, this hotel offers great views and food at a great price!

What to Do

Volcan Poas is a dying volcano and hiking trail you can travel to in the mountains just outside of San Jose. Tour buses can take you for $20 a person, or if you make Costa Rican friends to travel with, pretend to be asleep and get charged only $5 a person (get away with pretending to be a local, check).

volcan poas costa ricaImage courtesy of chessbase.com

Slightly outside of San Jose (day trip status) is the Sloth Sanctuary. I advise renting a car for this three hour drive to the Caribbean side. They offer the $25/person Buttercup Tour, which is a one hour tour where you can meet-and-greet baby sloths and the grand dame of the Sloth Sanctuary. However, if you reallllly love sloths, you can splurge $150 and have a full meal with the head of the sanctuary followed by a hands-on care day with the sloths.

Sloth Sanctuary Costa RicaImage courtesy of ticotimes.net

Manuel Antonio is a national park offering both the clear, equatorial pacific ocean and the lush rain forest. Manuel Antonio has an infinite list of fun things to do! Snorkeling, diving, ziplining, horseback riding, hiking, boating, fishing… take your pick! I spent $30 to go snorkeling and had the time of my life, and the other activities are in the same general price range.

Manuel Antonio Beach Costa RicaImage courtesy of flickr.com/photos/ozgi1

Where to Eat

In San Jose: My favorite place was a Pan-Asian restaurant called Tin Jo, located in downtown at Calle 11, Avenidas 6 and 8. Great drinks, great spring rolls, great curry, plus an amazing ambiance and entree prices that start around $10 USD.

In Manuel Antonio: There’s plenty of good food over in Manuel Antonio/Quepos area, so picking a favorite was hard, but I really enjoyed Restaurantico’s, near the Best Western Kamuk. They offer delicious smoothies, traditional Costa Rican breakfast, and everything from quesadillas to burgers on the menu.

Where to Drink

In San Jose: There were two bars in San Jose that I favored. Area City, located on Sur de Bomba La Primavera at Calle 21, is a two-story lounge-like bar with seating upstairs and dancing and standing over giant open windows for a breeze downstairs. Pub Rock, on Sur de La Embajada de Nicaragua, was another favorite. With it’s rock ‘n roll theme I fit right in and loved the selection of music and the laid-back crowd. Also, 500 colones ($1 USD) shots, depending on the night.

In Manuel Antonio: Quality bars for the younger crowd are hard to come by since this location is a popular retirement spot, but one place is a must-see: the Airplane Bar. Actually called Restaurante El Avion, walk into this shelled-out 1980′s plane to have a drink.

Costa Rica is by far one of my favorite travel destinations in the world. If you’ve ever been, where were you favorite places to stay and sightsee? Leave us a comment and let me know!

Written by Sahra Schukraft
Follow her fashion and lifestyle blog, Effortless Cool!